The Origins of the City
It is unclear of how the city came about. There are remains from the late Neolithic and early Chalcolithic periods conserved on the coastal plains of Barcelona. The area was settled by Thracian-iberian people, the Laietani, at the Barkeno on the Taber Hill, known today as the Cuitat Vella, or old city, in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. The Laiesken, or Laie, was also settled by the Laietani, which is located on the Montjuic.
Coinage was struck by both of these settlement camps. It continues to survive. Kallipolis, a small Greek colony, was founded around the same region, but the exact location is not completely clear.
Hamilcar Barca, the leader of the Carthaginian troops, led the troops to occupy the area in 218 BC, which was the start of the Second Punic War. The Ebro River, located 150 km south of the area, was the northern limit of the Punic territories before Barca led the troops to take over the area. This event is often cited to be the foundation of Barcelona.
The Legends of the Foundation
Since the 15th century, there have been two myths surrounding the founding of Barcelona by historians. One of the myths credited Hamilcar Barca, the Carthaginian general and father of Hannibal, with the founding of the city around 230 BC. The name of the city was Barkenon, Barcelino, or Barci Nova. While there are similarities between the Carthaginian set of names and the current name of the city, it is widely accepted that the name Barcelona is Iberic Barkeno in origin.
The second myth about the founding of the city has to do with Hercules before he founded the city of Rome. Hercules had joined forces with Jason and Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece during the fourth of his Labors. They had travelled across the Mediterranean in nine ships. Hercules had set out to locate the ship that was lost on the Catalan coast. The ship was wrecked by a small hill, but the crew was saved. The crew named the location Barca Nona, ninth ship, after being taken by the beauty of the land they surveyed.
The Roman Barcino
There is little information available about the years between 218 BC and the 1st century. While the Carthaginians had control of the area, the Roman Republic did not like it. They set forth to conquer the entire Iberian Peninsula, which is where Barcelona is located, in the Cantabrian Wars. Caesar Augustus declared the conquest complete in 19 BC. The first region to fall under the control of the Romans was the north east section of the peninsula, which then served as a base for other conquests. Barcelona was settled by the Romans during this time period. They used the name Barcino, but did not consider the area to be very important. The major centers of Tarraco and Caesaraugsta, know today as Zaragoza, are the areas that were important to the Romans.
In 14 AD, toward the end of Caesar Augustus's reign is when the name Barinco was placed on the city. The official name of the city was Colonia Faventia Julia Auguta Pia Barcino, or Colonia Julia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino, and Colonia Faventia, which had been shortened to Barcino.
While Barcino was a Colonia, it was used to distribute land among the retired soldiers. Pomponius Mela, a Roman geographer, stated that Barcino was just one of the settlements that were under the control of the Tarraco. Commercial and economical evolution took place in Barcino, because it was located on the branch of the Via Augusta, which also allowed it to be free of imperial taxation.
While Caesar Augustus was reigning, the city of Barcino had the shape of a castrum, which was a rectangular shape. There were two main perpendicular streets, which were know as the Cardus Maximus and the Decumanus Maximus, with a central forum located on the Taber Hill (25 m), which was the site of the Iberic Barkeno. The walls along the perimeter were 1.5km long, which enclosed an area of approximately 30 acres.
The population grew to 3500-5000 in the 2nd century. The city was no longer a castrum, it was now an oppidum. The citizens were able to cultivate the surrounding land, allowing the wine being produced to be exported. The sculptures, mosaics, and amphorae that have been found by archeologist suggest that Barcino had a rich population. There were none of the major public buildings, such as a theater, amphitheater, or circus. The more important Roman centers, such as Tarraco, had these buildings. There was only one public building present at the time. It was a temple dedicated to Caesar Augustus. It was built in the 1st century. The building was constructed on a podium and surrounded by Corinthian columns. It was 35 m by 17.5 m, which was large for the size of the city.
Germanic tribes began raiding Barcino around 250 AD. Claudius II improved the fortifications of the city during the later years of the 3rd century. The new walls surrounding the city were 2m in height, and reaching up to 8m in some parts. There were 78 towers amongst the walls that were 18m high. Barcino became more important than Tarraco, because of the fortifications. They were the strongest the Roman Empire had in the Tarraconensis province.
The Paleochristian Barcino
During the 3rd century, the earliest Tarraconense Christian communities were founded. By 259, the diocese of the Tarraco had been established. Valerian, the emperor, ordered the Saint Fructuosus (Fructuos), the bishop, and Augurius and Eulogius, deacons to be killed. In the later half of the 3rd century, the Christian community in Barcino was established.
In the beginning of the 4th century, Saint Cucuphas became a martyr when he was murdered during the persecution of the Christians under the Diocletian. Cucuphas is African in origin. It had been evangelized in several areas of the Tarraconese, including the areas of Barcino, Egara, which is known as Terrassa today, and Iluro, which is known as Mataro today. He was killed at Castrum Octavium, which is known as modern Sant Cugat del Valles, located just over the Collserola ridge from Barcino. There was a second martyr from Barcino named Saint Eulalia.
In 313, freedom of religion was granted to the Christians of the Roman Empire by the Edict of Milan and an end to widespread persecution happened. In 347, Praetextatus attended the synod. Later, he became the earliest bishop of Barcino. Saint Pacian and Lampius succeeded Praetextatus. On baptism, De baptism, and Libellus exhortatorius ad poemitemtium, about the penitential system were written by Pacian. The Basilica de la Santa Cruz at the origin of the modern cathedral, the first major Paleochristian temple, was built around the end of the 4th century.
Goths and Vandals were just some of the Germanic people who attacked the Western Roman Empire at the beginning of the 5th century. Ataulf, the stepbrother and successor to Alaric, led the Visigoths into the southern portion of Gaul. In 414, he suffered a defeat by the Romans at Narbona, what is known today as Narbonne. He then moved his troops into the Tarraconensis.
In 415, Ataulf moved his troops into Barcino, establishing a court. That same year he was murdered.
Theodosius I's daughter, Galla Placidia, was imprisoned by Ataulf. He later married her. His death had changed the relationship between the Visigoths and the Romans. Under the reign of Wallia, from 415-419, the Visigoths became allies, who were in charge of the control of the other Germanic tribes who invaded Hispania. They were known as foederati. The emperor Honorius saw that Wallia was successful in his task, so he expanded the area of the Visigoth control to include Aquitania and Gallia Narbonensis. In 417, Tolosa, what is now known as Toulouse, became Wallia's capital.
The center of the Visigoth kingdom remained Barcino, because of its excellent defensive walls. In 507, at the Battle of Vouille against the Franks, Alaric II lost his life. Gesalic, his successor, reigned from 507 to 511. The moved the capitol from Tolosa to Barcino. Amalaric, Gesalic's successor, who reigned from 511 to 531, ruled the kingdom from Narbona. He was murdered by his troops in Barcino. Theudis, Amalaric's successor, reigned from 511 to 548 at Barcino. In 573, Leovigildus moved the Visigoth capital to Toledo, returning Barcino to its original role as the provincial center.
While the Visigoths were only a minority of the population, they occupied the position of authority. The earliest rulers were the Arians. In 589, Catholic Christianity became the state religion, pushing the Arians out of power. The practice of Catholicism was still tolerated from the people. The Church of Saint Just became the religious center. The Basilica de la Santa Cruz was converted into an Arian temple. In 540, bishop Nebridi held the Christian Councils. Bishop Ugern continued the hold Christian Councils in the Basilica in 599.
Vulgar Latin was the language that was widely used. The Visigoth rulers were also using the language. An intercalated "h" was used to represent the hard k sound in the Latin spelling of Barcino. The different Latin cases were declined over time.
In the mid 4th century, there was a Jewish population in Barcino that began to form. The Romans tolerates the Jewish religion. The Visigoths discriminate and persecuted the Jews. Under the reign of Wamba, from 672 to 680, there was a considerable amount of Jewish people living in Barcino. A royal edict was appointed to expel the Sefardim.
In 711, the Moorish forces arrived at the Iberian Peninsula. Akhila II needed their help in the Civil War against Roderic. In 713, Akhila stepped down from the throne, so that Ardo could take over. Al-Hurr led a Moorish expedition that expanded the territory under the Moorish control. In 717, the Moorish attacks conquered and devastated Tarraco. Barcino, or Barchinona as it was called now, surrendered peacefully. The city was spared from suffering major destruction.
Barshiluna, as it was called under Moorish rule, was only ruled by the Moorish people for less than a century. Throughout the reign, the cathedral was converted into a mosque. There were taxes levied on all non-Muslims. There was religious freedom and the civil government was respected. Military matters were the major concern of the Wali. The local population was controlled by the count and local bishop.
Barcelona in the Spanish March
In 801, the son of Charlemagne, Louis the Pious captured Barcelona after a war that took place over several months. This was the most southern part of the territories he captured from the Moors. His troops were pushed back from Tortosa. The Llobregat and Cardener rivers marked the boundaries of the Carolingian possessions. The Spanish Marches, or Marca Hispanica, were border regions. There regions were administered by the number of counties the King appointed them. Barcelona became the seat of the country.
The royal administrators were the earliest Carolingian Counts of Barcelona. When the Carolingian kings began to weaken, the counts gained power and independence from the central rule. There were several counties of the Spanish Marches that were being ruled by the same person. In 878, Wilfred the Hairy became the last Count of Barcelona to be appointed by the Carolingian authorities at the Assembly of Troyes. He was already the Count of Cerdanya and Urgell when he received the counties of Girona and Besalu. In 897, Wilfred passed away. His counties were split up between his sons, Wilfred II Borrel, Sunyer, and Miro the Younger, which marked the start of a hereditary regime. Wilfred II pledged fidelity to the Carolingian court, being the last of the Counts of Barcelona to do so. The Treaty of Corbeil abolished the de jure feudal link in 1258.
The ability to expand the territory by conquests from the Moorish Walis was part of the superiority the Counts of Barcelona had among the nobility of the Spanish Marches. The populations of the inland territories plummeted after two centuries of war. The population was now growing. With excellent fortifications, the city of Barcelona was easily defended. The city prospered as the power of the overlords increased. The other March counties had limited prospects.
Barcelona under the Reign of Aragon
In 1162, Alfonso II of Aragon inherited the Crown of Aragon. In 1137, the Count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer IV married Petronila of Aragon, who was the future Queen of Aragon. The administrations of Aragon and Catalonia remained separate. The biggest settlement in Catalonia was the city of Barcelona, which was four times larger than Girona. It was also a vital source of royal income. Much of the time passed by the royal court was spent in travelling from town to town. They wanted to be sure that there was a continued loyalty to the local nobility. They evolved into a representative body known as the Courts of Catalonia.
Trade was a major part of the economy in Barcelona. The representatives were known as consuls, which were in all the major Mediterranean ports during this period.
The Spanish Monarchy in Barcelona
In 1469, Ferdinand II of Aragon married Isabella I of Castile, uniting the two royal lines. Madrid became the center of political power. The Mediterranean trade's importance was reduced when the colonization of the Americas took place.
The War of the Spanish Succession occurred from 1701 to 1714. It was a result of the joining of the Spanish kingdoms and political repercussions for Europe, because of the riches of the New World. The Catalan nobility joined forces with the Habsburgs, siding against the Bourbon Philip V. In 1715, this led to the last of the Nueva Planta decrees, signaling the end of the Catalan autonomy as well as an end to the city of Barcelona's national influence.
Toward the end of the 18th century, Barcelona's position as a Mediterranean port became an important factor in the Industrial Revolution, because of the closeness of lignite deposits in the Bergueda. The Catalonia area, especially Barcelona, now saw an increase in wealth and power, because they became important industrial centers.
There was a fortress constructed at Montjuic overlooking the harbor in the 18th century. The French astronomer, Pierre Francois Andre Mechain, was given access to the fortress on March 16, 1794, despite the war happening between France and Spain. He was there to make observations about the distance between Dunkirk and Barcelona, which were two cities that were lying on the same longitude. This longitude also was the same one that traveled through Paris. He was able to calculate the distance from the North Pole to the Equator using the latitudes and the measurements he took. He used the classical French units of length, producing the earliest prototype meter, which became defined as one ten millionth of the distance. On June 22, 1799, a meter bar manufactured from platinum was given to the French legislative assembly.
The First French Empire incorporated Barcelona into the Department Montserrat in 1812. The city was annexed by the Napoleonic France. It remained a part of the Montserrat for a few years until Napoleon was defeated. The Exposicion Universal de Barcelona took place in 1888. This led to the extension of the urbanized area of Barcelona from Parc de la Ciutadella to Barceloneta. In 1897, there were 6 surrounding municipalities that were absorbed by the city. The Eixample, the new district, was laid out. The city was restored to its role as the cultural center. Antoni Gaudi, an architect, still has building visible around Barcelona.
The Tragic Week was a series of political clashes that took place in the summer of 1909.
In 1929, there was a second major international exhibition organized. This led to the urbanization of the area surrounding Placa Espanya. It also allowed for the building of the Metro that was inaugurated in 1924.
The Second Republic and the Civil War
During the summer of 1936, Barcelona was scheduled to host the Olympics. The Olympic Stadium was constructed and the Montjuic area was built up. In July 1936, the army was insurrected and it brought on a civil war in Spain. The earliest form of the Republican International Brigades was formed by athletes who had arrived to participate in the games. Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell wrote about the Brigades.
Barcelona and Catalonia was Republican. The CNT and UGT unions organized many of the enterprises and public services throughout Barcelona. Much of the city fell under the control of anarchist groups when the power of the Republican government and the Generalitat began to dissipate. The Stalinists and official government troops, the allies of the anarchist, took control of the city after the street fighting of the Barcelona May Days.
On March 16, 1938, during the height of the Spanish Civil War, Barcelona was bombarded for three days. An Italian aircraft stationed on Majorca attacked the city 13 times, dropping 44 tons of bombs, on the command of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. General Franco requested that these attacks happen as a part of the retribution against the Catalan population. When the medieval Cathedral of Barcelona was bombed, there was more than 1,000 people who died, amongst them were many children. There were thousands more injured.
On January 26, 1939, the Nationalists took over the city.
There were lasting effects of Barcelona's resistance to Franco's coup d'état after the Republican government was defeated. The Catalan language was forbidden from public use, and the institutions of Catalonia were abolished. The banishing of the language was never formally legalized, as it is often claimed. The second largest city in Spain continued to be Barcelona. Even though there was devastation after the civil war, the city was still at the heart of a region that was industrialized and prosperous.
Andalucia, Murcia, and Galicia were cities in the poorer regions of Spain. The citizens of these cities began immigrating to Barcelona, which led to a rapid increase in urbanization. In 1952, Congres was built up for the International Eucharistic Congress. Later in the same decade, the districts of El Carmel, Nou Barris, El Verdum, and Guinardo were developed. L'Hospitalet de Llovregat Bellvitge, Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Sant Adria de Besos, and Badalona, the suburbs of Barcelona, saw population increases over a single decade.
The building of the earliest rondas or ringroads, the installation of traffic lights, the black topping of city streets, and the constructing of the metro network were all a result of the increase in the population throughout the city. Street lights, electricity, and running water had been improved upon, though not always fast enough to keep up with the growing population.
The decline of the Catalan culture of Barcelona and the poor housing accommodations were a result of the massive immigration taking place. In 1970, there were 1,557,863 people living in Barcelona, which meant there were 15,517 people per squared km. The immigrants only spoke Spanish, but the citizens were allowed to use Catalan during the later years of the dictatorship. There was no Catalan language education available. While there may have been social pressure to learn the local language, it was not present in the urban areas.
In 1975, a period of democratization in Spain occurred after the death of Franco. There was a strong pressure for change in Barcelona. The people of Barcelona believed that it had been punished for the past 40 years for supporting the Republican government. On September 11, 1977, there was a massive peaceful demonstration of over a million people in the streets of Barcelona, calling for the restoration of the Catalan autonomy. Less than a month later the restoration was granted.
In 1986, there were two events that promoted the evolution of Barcelona. There was a Spanish accession to the European Community. The 1992 Summer Olympics took place in Barcelona. There has been a rapid urban regeneration process occurring in Barcelona. The city has become a popular tourist destination. There has been an increase in the cost of housing, which has led to a decline in the population of the city in the last two decades of the 20th century. Many of the families moved to the suburbs. The decline in population was reversed in 2001 when there was a new wave of immigration, from Latin America and Morocco, to come through the city.